2 You shameless bunch of people, gather together now and pray. 2 Do it while there is still time, before all these terrible things happen. I’m warning you they are beginning to happen; The day is blown away like chaff. God will not stand by. Do it before the terrible Eternal’s anger comes down on your head. Do it soon before the appointed time when His anger rains down over you. 3 Seek the Eternal. Only He can save you, Judah. Call out to Him, all who realize their lowly places on the earth, All who are trying to live by His teaching. Pursue what is just and chase after true humility. Maybe, just maybe, the Eternal will hide and protect you from what will happen on that terrible day when His anger is unleashed.
During the early seventh century b.c., Judah is a tiny nation controlled by the Assyrian Empire and bullied by her neighbors. Under former Kings Manasseh and Amon, Judah lost all international power and fell into such hedonism that prophets such as Zephaniah are forced to hide themselves. No one in Judah is safe as Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Egypt (ruled by an Ethiopian dynasty), and Assyria continue seizing land God promised to the Israelites centuries earlier (Genesis 15:18–21). God has frequently used those foreign nations to discipline His children; but they, too, worship other gods and have overstepped the boundaries He set for them. The destruction of these foreign oppressors promises Judah not only revenge but the restoration of the inheritance promised to her people so long ago.
4 As for the Philistine cities off to the west—Gaza will be deserted, Ashkelon will be left in ashes and ruins, Ashdod will be scattered to the winds at noon, and Ekron will be pulled up by its roots. 5 Too bad for their citizens who live along the seacoast, those people who migrated from Crete;[a] This message from the Eternal One is for you too.
Eternal One: O Canaan, land of the Philistines, I will destroy you and wipe you from the face of the earth.
6 Their valuable coastlands will become pastures for our sheep, meadows[b] for our shepherds, and pens for our flocks. 7 Their land will be given to whomever remain from the people of Judah. During the day, they will eat the fruit of the land. In the evening, they will go into the houses left in Ashkelon to sleep. You see, the Eternal their God will always care for the faithful and will return their prosperity to them.
For hundreds of years the Philistines have lived along the coast and taken great joy in attacking settlements occupied by God’s people in the eastern hills. The archenemies of Israel, they are an advanced seafaring culture that devastates cities, uproots crops, and drives the Lord’s servants far from their homes. But God has seen their actions, and fortunes will soon be reversed.
8 Eternal One: As for Moab and Ammon off to the east, I have heard them taunting and mocking My people. I know they have expanded their borders into Judah’s land. 9 As I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies and God of Israel, live I will make Moab like Sodom and the Ammonites like the people of Gomorrah.[c] Nothing will be left there but thorny plants and barren ground. They will become totally desolate salt pits; not a thing will ever thrive there again. The remnant of My people will take whatever they want from them; the survivors of My nation will inherit what I once designated to Moab and Ammon.
10 Shame will be payback for their arrogance and pride, because they taunted and belittled those who are faithful to the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies. 11 And the Eternal will strike terror in their hearts because He will starve out all their so-called gods from the face of the earth. And so all the different people who live along the coasts will bow low before Him; everyone will worship Him from where he lives.
Eternal One:12 As for you, Ethiopia to the south, you will die by My sword.
Even the great Assyria, once God’s chosen instrument to punish His people, will not escape the Lord’s judgment.
13 God will stretch His hand over Assyria in the north and wage war against her. Their prized city Nineveh will be left in ruins. Fertile land will give way to thirsty desert. Nothing will thrive there. 14 Cattle and sheep will sleep in her streets; wild beasts will roam through the rubble. Birds that fly and animals that burrow, such as the scavenger pelican and hedgehog, will live atop each column. Birds will roost and sing in the broken window sills. Wrecked and ruined are the thresholds to the pagan temples, for God has exposed their beautiful cedar woodwork to the elements. 15 Nineveh is the boastful city that bragged of her greatness and security. She said in her heart, “I am so amazing that no other can compare.” Now she is totally deserted and animals live in her streets! Everyone who passes her now will hiss and taunt and make vulgar gestures.
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